Catnip belongs to the mint family and is famous for its effects on felines. You might be surprised to know that the herb also benefits people in many ways. Tea enthusiasts may brew tea for health or recreational purposes. It is known to help relieve conditions such as stress, insomnia, fever, and cold.
This herb is native to Europe, although it has become common in other parts of the world for its benefits to humans and cats. Before we discuss the many catnip tea health benefits, let’s first look at the history of its usage.
This is a flowering plant commonly known as catmint and goes by the scientific name of Nepeta Cataria. The word Nepeta comes from Nepete, a town in central Italy where the herb was commonly cultivated. Cataria is thought to originate from the Latin word for cat. Other names of catnip include Catnep, Catmint, Chataire/Cataire, Herb a chat, Menthe des Chats, and Menta de Gato.
It is believed that Egyptians were amongst the first people to discover catnip due to their love of cats. The Romans also regarded this herb highly and are said to have used it in traditional herbal medicines and recipes to drive away infections.
Americans began to use catnip around the 18th century. History shows that when settlers moved to the New World, they took the plant cuttings with them for food and medicinal purposes. A recipe from Massachusetts 1712 lists catnip as one of the ingredients.
Native Americans adopted this herb in their medicines and recipes when they found it. It was also thought to relieve female menstrual problems. Some of the American tribes used catnip to treat colds coughs, sore throats, fevers, pneumonia, and colic. The Mohegan tribes believed that tea made from catnip leaves would relieve infant colic.
According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the essential oils and other extracts made from catnip are quite popular for their uses (1). Although it is still not a popular tea, its health benefits are getting known and soon, it might become the talk of the town.
Let’s look at the health benefits this tea packs…
The catnip plant has iridoid glycosides, which is responsible for soothing effects on humans. Due to the herb's effect, herbalists have made catnip tea for centuries to treat anxiety. It also contains potent nervine properties, the reason it’s considered to be highly effective for patients of Parkinson disease, Alzheimer's disease, and nervousness related anxiety. Drinking catnip tea can help relieve tension headaches and bring about relaxation. It can also reduce anxiety and stress.
A research carried out by H. J. Forbes, and J.S Cauffield suggests that catnip can reduce chronic anxiety when taken as tea or smoked as an herb. Yes, people who suffer from chronic anxiety and respiratory conditions can smoke catnip. Juice enthusiasts will prefer squeezing its juice instead. The herb not only makes you calm, but it also strengthens your immune system (2)
Catnip has been effectively used to remedy restless sleep and irritability in babies and adults for decades. The sedative nature of this calming herb helps to slow down the body’s natural cycles and bring about a relaxed state and calm.
While cats seem to go crazy upon sniffing this herb, humans seem to react exactly the opposite. Drinking a cup of catnip tea before bed can help relax your muscles and reduce tension to help you enjoy refreshing sleep (2)
Catnip can relieve digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, cramping, flatulence, and bloating. This herb features calming properties, helping to remove air stuck in the intestines by speeding up the process of expelling it out of the body. This natural herbal remedy also regulates the production of bile and gastric juice secretion thereby keeping your digestive system healthy. (3)
Additionally, this is an effective carminative and can be used to relieve typical gas troubles. When you rub the leaves of catnip between fingers, you will see that it has high amounts of volatile oils. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, catnip helps to calm the stomach and prevent indigestion (4)
Are you suffering from colds and fever? Fevers are regarded as a symptom of an underlying illness. In response, the body temperature may rise to speed up detoxification. Fever is considered a good indication that your immune system is taking action. Drinking catnip tea can fight fever and colds by strengthening the immune system.
The herb is categorized as a diaphoretic herb, which means it can induce perspiration while maintaining body temperature. People with a sore throat, flu, or cold could benefit by using a hot catnip infusion as an inhalant. Apart from being an effective decongestant, catnip also alleviates catarrh and sinusitis. It can help to relax croup and asthma. (5)
Catnip also contains antiseptic properties, which help in healing infected tissues. It contains high levels of tannins hence its antiseptic attributes. Tannins help speed-up the process of tissue repair and slow down hemorrhages from cuts and grazes. (6) It works by accelerating the healing of the wound for a quick recovery. These molecules are also useful in curing insects' bites, burn injuries, piles, and other skin problems that cause inflammation.
A great deal of your body weight is water. Taking a cup of catnip tea helps accelerate perspiration. Sweating helps get rid of toxins and excess water from the body. Most effective weight loss diet plans have this ingredient due to its diaphoretic nature. (7)
Various toxins in the body may frustrate your weight loss efforts, which is why you may need to detoxify first. Catnip increases your body metabolism, which is necessary for fat burning. Taking 2 cups of catnip every day may boost your metabolism and accelerate the weight loss process.
And on a non-health issue…
Are you having trouble with insects in your home? Putting a catnip plant in your house may keep them away. Nepetalactone has a strong scent which may repel insects like mosquitoes and houseflies. Researchers found that Catnip is more effective compared to DEET at repelling mosquitoes (8). Also, planting catnip in your garden will help ward off pests that eat your crops.
Catnip is possibly safe for adults when used in small amounts. Cupful amounts of catnip tea are unlikely to cause side effects. However, it is important to avoid smoking the herb as this may result to other side effects. Also, you should avoid drinking more than 3 cups of catnip or taking the herb in high doses. Doing this may cause headaches and a feeling of being ill.
For children, the herb is not recommended in large amounts as it may cause sluggishness. It is also not recommended for pregnant women as it may stimulate the uterus and cause miscarriage. There is unreliable information about whether catnip is safe for breastfeeding women, which is why you should keep off this tea if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
It is also not recommended for women with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) as the herb can trigger menstruation. Catnip may not be safe for conceiving women as it may start menstruation.
Also, in case you have a scheduled surgery, you should stay safe by avoiding catnip for at least two weeks before. There is a concern that catnip may slow down the Central Nervous System (CNS) and cause sleepiness. Anesthesia and various drugs used in during surgery may have the same effect on the CNS.
If you are under any medication, ensure that you consult your physician to know whether catnip is safe for you. These herbs may interact with certain medicines containing lithium as well as sedative medications.
Catnip contains many nutrients such as Vitamin A, B, C, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and potassium. Tea made from leaves and flowers of the catnip plant may act as a natural remedy for many ailments as well as other benefits too.
If you use fresh catmint leaves, use double the amount used. It is recommended that you cut fresh stems of this plant and store them in a cool, dry place. After they are completely dry, separate the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in an airtight bag ready for use.
To make a cup of catnip tea, place two tablespoons of dried catnip in a teapot then pour in hot water and cover. It’s advised that you avoid boiling water as excess heat can compromise the benefits derived from this herb. Give the tea about at least 10 minutes to steep before drinking. To mitigate the slightly woodsy taste, add honey and lemon.
You can add other herbs to catnip such as other mint varieties or lemon grass. You can keep catnip tea fresh by freezing it.
Overall, we can say that adding a cup or two of catnip tea ensures to your daily diet can help boost your health, strengthens your mental performance, and improve your immunity. Although it is considered safe, consume with caution, and discuss possible risks with your doctor before drinking it in case you are under prescription medication.